Reading and Analyzing Poetry: Love That Dog and Famous Poems | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G4:M1:U1

Reading and Analyzing Poetry: Love That Dog and Famous Poems

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In Unit 1, students are introduced to poetry through Love That Dog, a novel written in verse by Sharon Creech. As Jack, the main character in the novel, reads famous poems, students analyze what is happening in the novel and how Jack feels about it, and they also read and analyze those famous poems to identify characteristics of poetry and to determine their theme. They then use the characteristics of poetry they have identified to summarize the poems, and to compare poetry to prose. For the mid-unit assessment, students read new pages of Love That Dog and analyze one of Jack's poems for the theme and characteristics of poetry, in order to write a summary. They also compare a poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, with a prose version of the same poem.

Throughout the unit, students are introduced to routines and anchor charts that will be used throughout the rest of the module, as well as the rest of the year. In the first half of the unit, students generate discussion norms and receive their independent reading journals and vocabulary logs. In the second half of the unit, students continue the routine of reading Love That Dog, analyzing the famous poems described, and they prepare for a text-based discussion about how Jack's feelings about poetry have changed from the beginning of the book to where they are by the end of the unit. For the end of unit assessment, students participate in a small group discussion about how Jack's feelings about poetry have changed over the course of the book, and they answer short and selected response questions about this.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What makes a poem a poem?
  • Poetry has characteristics that are unique and distinct from prose.
  • What inspires writers to write poetry?
  • Writers draw inspiration from many places, including the work of other writers and their own lives.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Analyzing Changes in Jack's Character
  • Task: Students read a new poem, answer selected response questions about it, and write a summary of it (mid-unit assessment). Students participate in a text-based based discussion about how Jack's feelings about poetry have changed (end of unit assessment).
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RL.4.1, RL.4.2, RL.4.3, RL.4.5, RL.4.10, W.4.9a, SL.4.1a, SL.4.1b, and SL.4.1c.
  • Text: Love That Dog


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

College, Career, and Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards:

  • D2.Civ.7.3-5: Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school settings.
  • D3.4.3-5: Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions.
  • D4.2.3-5: Construct explanations using reasoning, correct sequence, examples, and details with relevant information and data.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this module, students work to become ethical people, treating others well and stand up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion). Throughout Unit 1, students practice respect and integrity as they work together collaboratively and complete independent research reading homework.

The following student learning targets are a focus for this unit. Please refer to Teaching Notes in the lessons:

  • I show empathy.
    •   I behave with integrity.
    •   I show respect.
    •   I show compassion


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across all three components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy Block. See module overview for details. Independent reading is launched in this module. The Independent Reading: Sample Plans (see the Tools page) contain suggestions for lessons to launch independent reading and lessons to review and share knowledge and vocabulary gained from independent reading. Consider using this document as a guideline if you do not have your own independent reading launch and review routine.

Vocabulary Log

In Lesson 3, students receive a vocabulary log to collect new academic and domain-specific vocabulary. An example of a vocabulary log can be found in this unit's supporting materials.

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and some supports can serve a wide range of student needs. However, ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are specifically identified as "For ELLs" in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritize lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: To prepare for the Unit 1 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lesson 2, which introduces theme and summarizing; Lesson 4, which introduces the pattern of comparing Love That Dog to a famous poem in one lesson; and Lessons 7-12, which introduce comparing prose to poetry and preparing and practicing for text-based discussions. Be sure to complete the Language Dive in Lesson 6. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 1, 5, and 6, which provide helpful practice and repetition but don't introduce as many critical concepts or plotlines.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in their first Language Dive in Lesson 6. This Language Dive is designed to help students continue to notice and apply the English subject-predicate structure introduced in preceding lessons. Most lessons also offer optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. The Language Dives may be particularly valuable in helping students read between the lines of the often metaphorical poems they are reading. Language Dives are guided conversations about the meaning of a sentence from the central texts, models, or learning targets. The conversation invites students to unpack complex syntax, or "academic phrases," as a necessary component of building both literacy and habits of mind. Students then apply their understanding of language structure as they work toward the assessments and performance task. All Language Dives follow a Deconstruct-Reconstruct-Practice routine, in which students discuss and play with the meaning and purpose of the sentence and each chunk of the sentence; put the chunks back together into the original order and any possible variations; and practice using the chunks in their own speaking and writing. To maximize language practice and accommodate time, consider dividing or reviewing each Language Dive over multiple lessons. A consistent Language Dive routine is critical in helping all students learn how to decipher complex sentences and write their own. In addition, Language Dive conversations can hasten overall English language development for ELLs. Avoid using the Language Dive Guide to lecture about grammar; the Guide is designed to prompt students as they grapple with the meaning and purpose of the chunks and the sentence. Consider providing students with a Language Dive log inside a folder to track Language Dive sentences and structures and collate Language Dive note-catchers. Assure students that this log will not be graded; however, consider inviting students to use their log and note-catchers to gauge the progress of their speaking and writing skills. For more information on Language Dives and supporting English language learners, refer to the Supporting English Language Learners Guidance on the Tools page.
  • Goal 1 Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Conversation Cues, which are questions teachers can ask students to help achieve four goals: (Goal 1) encourage all students to talk and be understood; (Goal 2) listen carefully to one another and seek to understand; (Goal 3) deepen thinking; and (Goal 4) think with others to expand the conversation (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). Refer to the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 1 Conversation Cues are introduced in Lesson 3. Heightened language processing and development is a primary potential benefit for ELLs.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore poetry by a diverse range of authors. An ideal context for inclusiveness emerges as students are invited to discuss their knowledge of Love That Dog and connected famous poems. Foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about sensitive issues embedded in the poetry, knowing that these discussions may help create equity or unearth trauma or both. Be aware that the topic of dogs and pets may be sensitive for some students. It is important to acknowledge students' and families' feelings and experiences with dogs and pets and to know that these feelings and experiences may differ greatly, from positive to neutral to negative. Also, these feelings and experiences may be personal and students are not required to share them. If concerns arise, discuss them with families and arrange for alternative instruction if necessary. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Strategic grouping: Students work in pairs and triads to analyze poetry and prepare for text-based discussions. Seriously consider matching ELLs with a partner who has greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic pairing will greatly serve the language development of both partners.
  • Writing summaries: Students receive explicit instruction in how to craft a summary of a poem: introduction, what the poem is about, statement of theme, details from the poem to support the theme, and an explanation of how the poet uses a characteristic of poetry. Determining a theme may be difficult for some students who struggle to comprehend the language itself in the poem. Help students understand and discuss the details in each poem, guiding them to notice any patterns that emerge. Also, this summary structure may be different from other summary structures or structures that students are familiar with in their home languages. Compare and contrast the structures whenever possible.
  • Comparing prose to poetry: Students explicitly compare the characteristics of poetry to prose. Continually remind students as they practice writing poetry and prose that the rules are different. With poetry, just about anything goes, whereas with prose, there are strict rules to help ensure clear, appropriate communication. For example, prose sentences usually contain a subject with a predicate, and the summaries in the unit should be built on a set structure.
  • Text-based discussions: Students will participate in two text-based discussions, during which they will have the opportunity to discuss what inspires Jack in Love That Dog and how Jack's feelings about poetry change in Love That Dog. Students will complete a series of note-catchers to help them prepare for these discussions. This format is ideal for language development, as it invites students to orally negotiate with other students about the meaning of what they are trying to say, pushing them to change their language to be more comprehensible. Additionally, students can celebrate their successful attempts at communication and their ability to extend and enhance the discussions.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Love That Dog
by Sharon Creech
1 per student
ISBN: 9780064409599

Preparation and Materials

  • Prepare vocabulary logs (Lesson 3) and independent reading journals (Lesson 2).
  • Prepare Academic and Domain-Specific Word Walls. These are two separate areas of the classroom to which you will add new vocabulary as students encounter it in texts. The Academic Word Wall is a permanent Word Wall that will continue to be added to throughout the year. The Domain-Specific Word Wall will change from module to module, as the topic changes. Prepare cards or paper of a clearly visible size to be seen throughout the classroom to keep near the Word Walls.
  • The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced both throughout the module and the school year:
    • Academic Word Wall
    • Discussion Norms anchor chart
    • Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart
    • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart
    • Equity sticks
    • Independent reading journals
    • Vocabulary logs
    • Strategies to Answer Selected Response Questions anchor chart
    • Criteria of an Effective Summary anchor chart
    • Parts of Speech anchor chart
    • Tracking Progress folder
    • Affix list

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Docs - Create writing products: Students complete their note-catchers and write their essays, poem, and poetry presentation in Google Docs.
  • Speech to Text (Many newer devices already have this capability)- To create writing by speaking: Students complete their note-catchers and create written work by speaking rather than writing or typing.
  • - Students read and research additional poets: Students read about and research poets they have a particular interest in.
  • Poetry Foundation - Additional reading of poetry: Students read poems by other poets outside of those introduced in the module
  • Fern's Poetry Nook - Additional reading and writing of poetry: Students read poems written by other students, and also submit poems to be published.
  • Magnetic Poetry - Additional writing of poetry: Students drag and drop the magnetic words on the whiteboard to create their own poems.

Additional Language and Literacy Block

The Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block is 1 hour of instruction per day. It is designed to work in concert with and in addition to the 1-hour Grades 3-5 ELA "module lessons." Taken together, these 2 hours of instruction comprehensively address all the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

The ALL Block has five components: Additional Work with Complex Text; Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM (Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics); Writing Practice; Word Study and Vocabulary; and Independent Reading.

The ALL Block has three 2-week units which parallel to the three units of the module.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • If you have a number of ELLs speaking the same native language, invite family members to come into the classroom to talk with them about poetry and poets in their home countries.
  • Invite family members or teachers to come into the classroom to read their favorite poems, or to talk about their favorite poets.


Invite a poet to come into the classroom to explain what inspires him or her to write and to read aloud some examples.


Visit a live poetry reading event.


  • Identify local people who may enjoy poetry--for example, a senior citizens home--and go to read poetry for them or send them recordings of students reading poetry.
  • Consider inviting students to write poetry about a local issue and use the poems to make a difference.

Extension opportunities for students seeking more challenge:

  • Invite students to keep a poetry journal like Jack does in Love That Dog.
  • Invite students to read and write poems.
  • Invite students to read about other poets that they have an interest in.
  • Invite students to write invitations for the performance.
  • Invite students to play a specific role in the presentation (e.g., videographer, sound engineer if using a microphone or sound system, etc.).

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